Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Memories of trips gone by: Ohio

From 2003-2008 my family and I went to Toledo, Ohio every year for the NNL Nationals, one of the marquee model car events, and the originator of the NNL-style show. It was announced this week that the 2019 event, the 40th annual show, would be the last. My health no longer allows me to travel that far, as it's a 15-hour one way trip. But talking about it made me think about all the memories from the trips I was able to take, and there were a lot of good ones. That trip was a big part of my life at that time.

One thing I have noticed about myself...I'm really big on creation, but not so much at appreciation. I'm always more focused on taking new pictures than enjoying the pictures- and the memories that go with them- that I've made in the past. I got to looking through my photo albums from the trips for the first time in a while, and the memories came rushing back. I decided that I would do a little retrospective, showing some of my favorite pictures and memories about them, with links to my full photo albums on my website, as there are hundreds of photos- way more than I can post here. Just click on the green links to see the full photo albums.

There will be very little card content in this post- but there will be some, because no matter where I am, there's usually some cards not far away from me, and that trip allowed me to look for cards in two whole states!


The 2003 trip is probably the most memorable to me. (it's a tossup between 03 and 07) It was my first time traveling cross country, and first time in that direction. My whole life, we always went up, to Lake George, or headed into Connecticut. I had only been in Pennsylvania twice before that trip, and never farther than Wilkes-Barre. But this time, Toledo was the destination. We were out there for three whole weeks, also the longest time we ever spent out there. Not only would we be attending the NNL, we also went into Indiana, to South Bend to see the Studebaker National Museum, and Auburn, to see the Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg Museum. It is the only time I've been to either museum, although we tried to get back to Auburn. More on that below. South Bend, Indiana is the farthest west I've ever been in my life. We also traveled into Michigan, attempting to go to the Henry Ford Museum, but didn't feel safe at the motel we had booked and high-tailed it back to Toledo. I have not gotten to see any of the museums in Michigan, but I did get to see the Ford final assembly plant, which was a big deal to me.
 The Ohio welcome center (rest stop on I-90) really made an impression on was the coolest rest area ever.
 Of course, we found a card shop. the owner of this shop was Tom Noe, somewhat infamous. Not long after my trip there he ended up going to jail for election tampering.
 By pure chance, when we got there we went to the Southwick Mall. It was great! It reminded me of the Dutchess Mall, the best mall ever, in Fishkill NY that closed around 2001. Unfortunately, Southwick closed by the time we went back in October 2004. But, they were having a card show! It was the last mall card show I ever went to, once a staple of my weekends. It wasn't very large but it was a pleasant surprise. You can't see any of the card show in this photo, but there was one going on that day.
 My first time seeing one of the Great Lakes, Lake Erie. It was much browner than I expected. I'm used to Lake George, which is always blue. This...this looked like YooHoo.
 The aforementioned Ford assembly plant in Dearborn, Michigan. We had a rental Ford Expedition, so the vehicle this photo was taken from was built in that very building.
 The very beautiful Sidecut Metro Park. Funny story here, I almost got charged by a deer. It was getting ready to charge me, but I was obliviously trying to take it's photo. My mom got my attention and distracted it by beeping the horn wildly, if I remember correctly.
I had never experienced anything so flat as Ohio gets. I am used to mountains and hills....not flatness. Here, you can see for miles. I have no idea exactly where this is, it's somewhere along I-90 in Ohio, taken on the way home. I don't have a picture of it, but our very first day out there, I experienced a tornado, but didn't know it. The sky turned greenish and the sirens wailed, I noticed the wind picked up but assumed the sirens were for a fire. I was wrong. We saw on the news that night that a tornado had touched down less than 5 miles from the Steak 'N Shake we were in at the time!

The 2003 trip is also where I bought my first laptop, which  is where I began the Excel file that I now use to track my entire NBA collection- the original file having been lost to corruption.  The file I currently use is one I began in 2003 but didn't continue, and salvaged off that first computer's hard drive. (I still have the computer, and it still sort of works, but no longer connects to the internet)

2003 Ohio/Indiana/Michigan Trip


I have almost no memories of the 2004 trip. I got very, very sick when I was out there. I remember we stopped in or near Akron on the ride home because it was too windy and snowing to keep driving, but that's pretty much all I remember. I was sleeping on the ride home, but the wind blew an 18-wheeler onto it's side right in front of us. The driver told my mom that it was not a big deal but to us it was!
I only took 10 photos outside of the model show that year- a crazy small amount, and of the 10 photos, only three were actually taken in Ohio. The other 7 were taken in New York, and NONE were taken when we went to Indiana. Having really enjoyed the ACD Museum the year previous, we planned to go back. Got as far as getting to the motel but I was so sick we didn't do the museum and just turned around and came home. I don't know what exactly I had, but even though this was the first week of October, I didn't fully recover until early 2005. It was bad. But it wasn't the sickest I've ever been, that was when I was in school.
This field of cows, across from the rest area on I-90 in Oneida County NY is the most interesting picture of the ten.

2004 Ohio trip


I don't have too many memories of the 2005 trip, unfortunately. I have a bit of a memory problem, and much of the mid-2000s are lost to me, unfortunately. (one of the reasons I started Cardboard History was so I could write about stuff before it left my memory, something that has actually worked a few times already!) The biggest thing about the 2005 trip that I remember is that my brother came with us for the first time, and we visited the Toledo Zoo for the first time, which would turn out to be a highlight and one of the things we look back on the fondest. Part of my memory problem is that both 2005 and 2007 we went to the Zoo, and I can't keep the memories from the two trips apart in my head. Things I was sure took place in 2007, were uploaded to my website in 2005, for example.
Here's Lake Erie from the top of the hill, which I didn't go up in 2003:
 the little gray dot between the white van and the tree is our rental Expedition, to give you an idea of the scale here.
oh, deer.
Here's me on the top of the hill, taken by my brother.
One of the more interesting things to me was seeing this Chevrolet with the deception wrapping. In Michigan you can see new vehicles driving around some times before they are officially released, and apparently in Ohio as well. 

This photo is from Lamar, Pennsylvania, showing the gently rolling hills that make the northeast so amazing. The silver Expedition's rear quarter panel visible in the foreground is our rental that year, that is the tiny dot in the Lake Erie photo.

2005 Toledo Trip

The Toledo Zoo is one of my absolute favorite places in Ohio, and probably the place I miss the most, not being able to get there anymore. I only went twice, but both times were incredible. The aquarium is my favorite part. My pictures from the aquarium in 2005 are not that great, but I will post an aquarium shot in 2007.

Toledo Zoo 2005


I have almost no memory of the 2006 trip, and looking through the photos to make this post is the first time I've seen them in literally years. I only took 68 photos, none of them are all that memorable, to be honest. I think I was sick again that year. I don't really remember.
It snowed while we were there! I'm not sure the exact day because I didn't know how to set the date on my camera at that time, but I uploaded the image to my website on October 17th, 2006.
You can see some snow here- look in front of the trees, and below the front door. This Lincoln was our rental car that year
On the way home, instead of going one of the major interstates (I-90 in NY, I-80 in PA) we took Route 17 home. Not really a fun's mostly trees. It's mostly trees on the interstates, too, but at least you can drive faster.
Chautauqua Lake was beautiful, though. 
An Indian casino under construction. 


2007 may be the trip that's most memorable.  My brother was able to go with us, the second and last time he was able to do that, and we stopped at Niagara Falls, the only time I've ever seen it. It was the year I took the most pictures- 137 of the trip itself, 248 at Niagara Falls, 183 at the Toledo Zoo, and 215 at the model show! That's 783 photos, plus 42 more that are pictures of my family members. That's a lot, although if my health allowed it, I'd probably take more now as I've increased my photography rate, sometimes shooting pictures with two cameras- one in each hand- at the same time. When we talk about the Ohio trips as a family, this is the one we talk about the most. 

Niagara Falls is just...incredible. Awe-inspiring. You can hear it before you see it. Also visible in these photos is Canada! I've never been there- in fact, that day- 11 years ago today, as we visited on October 10th, 2007- is the only time I've ever SEEN another country. I don't have a passport though, so I wasn't able to cross the border. 

While I got to see Cleveland several times, the 2007 trip was the only time I got to photograph it- I was too sick to do it in 2004, and the other times we drove through it at night, which is not really possible to photograph from a moving car. But 2007...daylight! 
 This is the Cleveland Indians' stadium

Quicken Loans arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers! This is the only NBA arena I've ever seen in person! Although it hadn't happened yet when I took this photo, this very building played host to 5 NBA Finals in the 11 years since I took this! 

I remember we got caught in some very heavy downpours that year, the only time we had to drive through rain to get there or back, I believe. Otherwise we were very lucky with weather. I don't remember where this photo was taken. But the sky is dark and foreboding so it fits the bill for what I needed. I don't know which state this was even in. However, I think it may be taken in the parking lot at the motel we stopped at in Hamburg, NY on the way home.

The Toledo Zoo in 2007 was my last time visiting there. But it was great! I can't speak highly enough of the Zoo. If you ever get to Toledo, build in time to see it. It's going to take most, if not all of, a day. Make sure to visit the aquarium as well, because as I said above, it's my favorite part. 
The pictures from 2007 are significantly better than 2005's as well, although I know I could do better now...if only I could get there.

 One thing I will never forget about the Zoo...and specifically the that I found out that fish have a startle reflex. I took a photo of one, with the flash on...and the fish literally jumped back. It's was the funniest thing I've ever seen in my life! Had we known it was going to happen, we would have recorded it. I didn't even know it was possible for a fish to jump back like that!


This was the final year we went to Toledo...but we didn't know at the time it would be the final. It was so expensive to take the trip every year, and the wise, I couldn't handle it anymore. 15 hours one way, it's tough. That's really 30 hours in a vehicle in under a week's time, and I just couldn't do it anymore. Originally we were just going to take 2009 off and then go back again in 2010, but my health didn't get better, and the money situation got much worse, so we never went back. I would be lying if I said I didn't miss it. Compound the fact that the rental car we had in 2007- the best trip- was really uncomfortable. It made the ride almost unbearable. That last year, we actually took my brother's car...but not my brother! Something we all regret now, had he known it was the end he would have come with us. But, it wasn't planned to be the just worked out that way. Sometimes, life just messes things up. To be honest, I may have been getting burned out, as well. 2008 was a strange year for me. I didn't realize it at the time but I just wasn't right that year- as I noted previously, I didn't even really collect cards that year. While I took over 100 photos on the trip, only 27 of them were actually in Ohio. And most of the shots in Ohio were of my brother's car, at that! 
My brother still has that car, although not for much longer. He's had it since December 2005, but in the last year it's really started to deteriorate. A few weeks ago the muffler rusted off, it got flooded out at the end of August leaving two inches of water in the interior, the paint on the roof is coming off (a byproduct of us not having a garage, it's been in the sun 24/7/365) a UPS truck hit it in a parking lot, (you can tell because of the brown marks left on the car and how high they are), the air conditioner no longer works properly, etc. It's served him and us well- for the last three years with the Jeep not running, it's been my family's only means of transportation, and it's taken him or us from Maine to Ohio. But the time is coming soon when he will have something new. 

That year, when coming to Albany, where the NYS Thruway merges with I-90 on the way to Buffalo, or heads south on it's own, instead of turning south for home, we turned north and headed for Lake George. The colors were particularly bright and vibrant that year, as this image shows:
 The bright red tree is in front of Fort William Henry, and Prospect Mountain rises in the back- nine years before I went up it for the first time. The cutout visible is the second lookout, which is the absolute best spot on the mountain. 
Most of my pictures in the album are of the Lake George part of the trip. 

That last one is definitely one I'd like to do over. But, of course, that's impossible.

I'm not sure exactly on the year, but I was in Ohio when Fleer's back stock came out. They went under in 2004, but I don't know if their stock came to market in 04 or 05- but I do remember their stock was put out in repacks guaranteeing an autograph and something else. I got both of my Allen Iverson autographs that way, cards that I would not be able to afford as singles, so that worked out well for me. I wish I had gotten more of those packs. I don't know if I realized exactly how rare some of that later issues of Fleer would be, and that they had such good stuff in them...I don't think I opened them up until I got home. 

I managed to get a card in after all! 

I sure do miss the trips to Ohio every year, and I'm sad that the NNL Nationals will be ending. Although the NNL East, in the much closer to home location of New Jersey, has since surpassed the show in size and notoriety, the NNL Nationals was still the first one, the one that created the concept that has since spread around the world. That's pretty cool, and I'm glad I got to attend six of them, and make all the memories of the trips that I touched on in this post. 

I didn't share the links to each model show album, but if you want to see them, you can find them here: Scale Model Shows You'll have to click into each album instead of direct links like above, but that's no big deal. 

I know this is a card website and there's very little card content in this post. I always enjoy seeing the adventures that aren't card related when they show up in my reading list. I would be open to writing more of these retrospectives, if there is a demand. This post took me almost 4 hours to create so it's not something I would do often. but I have a huge photo archive of stuff I could post about, going back to the 1980s.


  1. Thanks for sharing! I love seeing photos of Niagara Falls. I would go there yearly in my youth and it was where I proposed to my wife!

  2. Thanks for sharing Bill. Great pictures of what I’m sure are great memories.

  3. I've said it many times before, but I'll say it again, my absolute favorite posts are of the non-card variety (family, travel, etc.) -- this one definitely falls into that category!

    Since I wasn't collecting cards at the time, I had never heard of those Fleer repacks, now I have yet another regret :(

    1. I kind of suspected you would enjoy it, I enjoy your non-card posts as well!

  4. Great post! Love to see/hear stories like this.

  5. 15 hour drive? Wow. No way I could do that without breaking it up into two days. Loved those photos of Niagra Falls. I'd love to one day make it out there to see it in person. And did I read this correctly? You pulled an Iverson autograph out of a repack? Damn. Best repack ever!

    1. We broke it up a couple of times. I preferred to do it all at once but since I can't drive I didn't have much say in the matter, LOL. I actually pulled two Iverson autographs out of those, but repack may not be the best term. Overstock blowout might be better.

  6. Awesome post! I met my wife in Ohio so it’s not that bad of a place. Ha! Thanks for sharing the memories!

    1. Cool! I actually enjoyed everywhere in Ohio that I went to.

  7. Awesome memories. I wished I had more photos from trips I had taken

    1. I have thousands of pictures, and I wish I had more as well! I don't have a single photo taken from our trip to Vermont in 1997, and I never photographed one of the icons of our Ohio trips- Steak 'N Shake!